Toxic Work Friendships: How to Spot Them and End Them Without Hurting Your Job

Updated on May 29, 2020
SMD2012 profile image

Sally believes relationships should be built on mutual respect. She gives talks and workshops on cultivating good career connections.

Learn how to handle toxic work friendships in a professional manner.
Learn how to handle toxic work friendships in a professional manner. | Source

People who work outside of the home can spend anywhere from 5 to 50 hours a week alongside their co-workers. Unless you are totally isolated from other people, you’ll likely develop some office friendships. Your work friends may not be as close to you as your best friends in your after-hours life but getting along and being friendly with your peers on the job can make the workday more fun and enjoyable.

But what do you do if one of those work relationships starts to become troublesome? Perhaps you’ve noticed a change in the way you and your work friend connect. If you feel like something just doesn’t feel right, it could be that your work friendship has become toxic and unhealthy. If things have been feeling off lately, here are some signs that your working relationship is becoming toxic.

Signs of a Toxic Work Friendship

She gossips about other people and tries to pull you into her own conflicts with other co-workers.

Its one thing to ask a friend at work to listen to you when you’ve had a bad day or you feel that you’ve been mistreated by someone else. But when she turns a misunderstanding into a full-on beef with one of the other people you work with, tread carefully. When she expects you to take sides, she’s asking you to dismiss the professional working relationships you’ve built. She’s putting you in a position that could make it difficult to maintain professional boundaries and collegial relations with your peers. A healthy friendship at work doesn’t ask you to sacrifice your other work relationships.

It can be extremely stressful to have a toxic friendship in the workplace.
It can be extremely stressful to have a toxic friendship in the workplace.

Your work friend teases you in front of your boss.

Calling you names—even if they are pet names—reminding you out loud of your most embarrassing moments, or speaking to you sarcastically in front of your supervisor is rude and disrespectful. If she insists that she’s just telling inside jokes or try to be funny, even after you’ve asked her to stop, be mindful of what you share with her going forward. True friends don’t treat each other that way in the workplace or after hours, at home.

Your best workmate lacks humility.

She lets you take the blame when things go wrong but will always take the credit when things go well. She rarely apologizes for the mistakes she makes and lacks the self-awareness to see how her actions are impacting you and others. If you feel like your work friend is treating you unfairly, ask yourself what it is that is keeping you connected to her. One of the things about toxic relationships, at work or in our personal lives, is that they often involve a certain level of co-dependency.

Your work friend can't, or won't, celebrate your success with you.

When something good happens to you at work, sincere friends will be happy for you. Toxic friends will minimize your success, fail to congratulate you, or try to one-up your good news with an announcement of their own.

There are better ways to deal with a toxic friend at work instead of just ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away.
There are better ways to deal with a toxic friend at work instead of just ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away.

How to Deal with a Toxic Friend at Work Without Making Things Awkward

Unlike difficult friendships in your personal life that you can walk away from, bad relationships at work can be harder to detach yourself from. You are both there to earn a living and so it’s inevitable that you will still have to spend time together, even when you’d rather not.

Here are some ways to carefully end a toxic friendship at work without damaging the working relationship.

  • Be mindful of how you are communicating. What message are you sending when you share personal details of your own life with her? What signal are you putting out there when you give away your precious time to let her complain about others? Toxic friendships don't happen on their own. It's worth doing a little bit of personal self-reflection too while you work on extracting yourself from the relationship.
  • Get comfortable asserting yourself. One of the reasons toxic friendships tend to thrive even when they cause pain and stress is that one or both parties in the relationship haven't been assertive in setting boundaries.
  • Re-direct. Find ways to re-direct conversations that make you uncomfortable.
  • Be empathetic and respectful. She has feelings too and perhaps she may not even know or realize that things have gone off the rails for the two of you. Due to personal life circumstances, a rough childhood or other adverse events, some people end up in an endless cycle of one toxic relationship after another without ever understanding why.
  • Keep busy. Consider initiating exciting solo project at work or joining a committee. Doing will give you a chance to regain your sense of independence and autonomy and create an opportunity for you to find pride and joy in doing meaningful work.
  • Don't go out of your way to avoid her. Ghosting someone or cutting them off completely at work is neither a practical nor professional way of dealing with a toxic friendship at work.
  • Find healthy ways to manage your stress at work. Instead of turning to your workmate when you want to vent, find other healthy ways to cope with stressful situations so that the temptation to gossip and carry on destructive conversations is nixed.
  • Give yourself time. You're allowed to grieve the loss of what was once a vibrant friendly work relationship.
  • Review your social media connections and if necessary, find ways to limit what you share with one another. You don't need to unfriend her on Facebook—that might be too jarring—but you change your privacy settings so that she can't see as much of your activity as she could before.

Do you believe people should have 'besties' at work?

See results

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • Ericdierker profile image

    Eric Dierker 

    2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

    Interesting stuff. Good to pay attention to.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)